No more clarity from NIO on Troubles murder confessions

Theresa Villiers
Theresa Villiers

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) was unable to clarify the purpose of allowing Troubles killers to make full confessions as part of new plans on dealing with the past.

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers launched her plans on Wednesday – causing alarm among terror victims’ groups IVU and FAIR.

Her plan will allow murderers to make full confessions, but the information will not be admissible in court.

Victims’ groups understand the process will not allow them to know who killed their loved ones.

Those who make confessions will still be open to prosecution using evidence from other sources.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said some families had asked for the measure but stressed – like Ms Villiers – that it was not an amnesty.

However, TUV leader Jim Allister insisted that it was and said dishonest confessions would be used to “rewrite history”.

The News Letter asked the NIO on Thursday what the public interest is from inviting those responsible for killings to make full confessions that will not be admissible in court and which may not be seen by their victims.

The News Letter understands that some of the confession may be passed to victims to help explain how and why their loved ones were murdered – however, the NIO could not confirm if this would be the case.

A NIO spokeswoman said current mechanisms are failing victims and survivors.

“These proposals are the culmination of intensive discussions with victims’ and survivors’ groups, the five main political parties and the PSNI, as well as others who have been affected by the Troubles,” she said.

“There is still work to do but this is a significant step towards a new framework to deal with the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland and legislation will be introduced at the earliest opportunity.”

Victims will decide whether or not to take part, she said.

UUP MP Tom Elliot expressed concerns that there is no public consultation and that the plans are to be “steamrollered” through Westminster – not via the Assembly.

The NIO responded that the Stormont House Agreement has been “in the public domain for nine months”.

The five main parties agreed a single Westminster bill was the best option and the Assembly will be able to vote on a Legislative Consent Motion for Westminster to legislate, she added.